Finding the right running shoe makes a difference in performance, so says Vicky Hallett of the Washington Post: She writes: This is a story about running shoes, and don't let anyone like Bart Yasso, chief running officer of Runner's World magazine, hear you give them any other name. "When people call them sneakers, we correct them. A sneaker would be something you walk around in," he says. It might seem silly, but the distinction matters, at least to the person whose feet they're on. Running shoes are highly technical footwear that provide stability and cushioning while heroically bearing up to three times the wearer's body weight; sneakers, on the other hand, are fashion accessories designed to look cool at the mall. "If you run for more than five minutes at any time, you might as well have running shoes," advises Stephen Pribut, a Washington, D.C.-based podiatrist specializing in sports medicine. But not any pair will do, even if you're dropping upwards of $100, because finding the right running shoe is something of an art -- or "a science and a feel," according to Warren Greene, the brand editor of Runner's World, who is charged with organizing the magazine's annual shoe guides. The science part begins with the shape of the arch of your foot, which anyone can determine at home with this quickie experiment: Dunk your foot in water and then place it on a brown paper bag. If you see a "C" shape on the paper (using your left foot a C, using your right foot a backwards C) when you remove your foot, you have a rare high arch, which suggests you're an under-pronator. If the shape looks more like a rectangle, that means you have flat feet and are likely an over-pronator. See something in between? That's a normal arch, which usually translates into some pronating but not a whole lot. Pronation isn't as sinister as it sounds -- it's merely the flattening of the arch as you move through your step, which makes your foot roll inward. "There should be a degree of that occurring," explains James Christina, a podiatrist who serves as director of scientific affairs at the American Podiatric Medical Association. "Pronating loosens up the structures in the foot and allows it to adapt to changes in the ground. But if it happens excessively, you have problems." Think shin splints and tendinitis.Of course, under-pronation comes with its own host of maladies because your foot doesn't absorb shock effectively. Without proper cushioning, that's a recipe for stress fractures and knee and hip issues. Luckily for runners, shoe technology has come a long way since Ed Grant, president of the D.C. Road Runners, trained in Converse shoes and the like in the 1970s. "What was available back then, you wouldn't use as walking shoes today," he says. "A piece of rubber with a vinyl top, no arch support, no cushioning. Now, manufacturers focus on foot biomechanics and devote extensive resources to designing products that can correct practically anyone's stride. Companies typically classify their shoes in three categories: neutral (for high arches), stability (for normal or low arches) and motion control (for flat arches). Conveniently for shoppers, that's also how specialty running stores tend to divvy up their inventory, and even if you haven't done the paper-bag test at home, staffers there can analyze your gait to steer you to the right part of the wall. At that point, most people would just grab an appealing shoe and try it on. But pros first like to conduct a series of quality-control tests. Christina sets his pair on a flat surface so he can look for differences in alignment between the right and left shoe. (Yes, these can occur even in premium shoes.) "One shouldn't look like it's tilted in a different way," he notes. Pribut has a three-phase sequence for checking stability: First, he bends the shoe toe to heel to see where it flexes. If it's not at the forefoot -- where the foot actually bends -- be afraid. He then grips both ends and twists in opposite directions. If he can wring it like a towel, that means there's zero support. Finally, he squeezes the heel in both directions right above the midsole. A stable heel won't cave in. Even if a few pass these tests, there's a lot more hunt ahead to find the right fit. It all starts with the "last," the mold that shapes the inside of the shoe: whether it's wide or narrow in the midfoot, how it sits on the heel and how roomy the toe box is. Each company's lasts are slightly different, which is why some people detest a certain manufacturer's shoes while others are completely devoted to that brand. "It's not a fashion show when you're running," reminds Yasso of Runner's World. You want the heel securely in place. You don't want to be squished in so that either the inside or outside of the foot feels like it's protruding. Anything that's rubbing, or even just feels off, is a sign to slip into another pair. It's wise to hold off until the afternoon to make your purchase, to allow for any swelling that your feet do throughout the day. Toes also dictate sizing choice: The rule is you need a finger's width from your longest toe (whether that's your big one or not) to the end of the shoe. In addition, the fact that running shoes have a tendency to run small may mean the right size is as much as a whole size larger than what you'd opt for in a dress shoe. If what you've been using has been working, the shoe-store folks will typically start you with the same shoe. The only problem is that ... well, it might not actually be the same. Manufacturers update most of their shoes every 12 months, and sometimes the shifts can be dramatic. Some changes can have a discernible impact on a shoe's "ride" and certainly affect its price. Even Grant, who was once a bargain-rack shopper, says you're a fool to focus too heavily on price. "If your feet aren't in the right shoe, that'll hurt your experience," he says. And besides, he points out, they're the only equipment you really need to participate in the sport. The question becomes how much do you spend, and for what. Most shoes hover around $90, although certain pairs sell for twice that -- usually because they're packed with more innovations. But someone's got to pay for advertising, too. Reading about a shoe's construction can feel a bit like parsing a foreign language, what with all the references to proprietary materials. Brooks boasts that one of its newest shoes, the Infiniti, has the ultimate cushy forefoot because its trademark MoGo compound is sandwiched around a layer of something called e-Fusion. Adidas's adiStar Cushion 6 comes with ForMotion plates that keep the heel steady on uneven surfaces, plus a GeoFit heel and an abundance of adiPRENE. Greene says the advances worth springing for are the ones that improve your run. "There are early adopters who want the most whiz-bang shoe on the market," he adds. "But you need to be in the shoe that fits you correctly. I would dissuade readers from buying shoes on technology." While Runner's World singles out some shoes as "Best Buy" and "Best Update," picking shoes on that basis alone is ill-advised. "People always ask me what's the best shoe," Greene says. "I tell them that I don't know. I'm running in what are the best shoes for me."[END] Thanks Vicky Hallet - this is the best spot on CliffNote Running Shoe Primer I've ever seen. Have a great day!